By Phil Thorpe, USFWS pilot biologist, Southern Saskatchewan
Stephen and I flew our last transect lines today in the northeast aspen parklands. These transects go near the towns of Melfort and Prince Albert. Conditions were varied in this part of the survey area because winter and spring precipitation was variable. More precipitation fell in the center of the parklands between Saskatoon and Prince Albert than on the western or eastern parts of parklands. Wetlands near Prince Albert were overflowing and abundant, while areas closer to Melfort dried out and many temporary and seasonal wetlands were dry in that part of the Province. Wetland drainage is still going strong in the northeast Saskatchewan parklands, and many larger wetlands and lakes were overflowing out of their boundaries—some of this because of these new drainage patterns.
Although spring conditions (leaf-out, etc.) were delayed in the Province about 10-12 days, and many larger lakes still had ice on them during the survey, most ducks were in breeding mode and many lone drakes were observed by the end of the survey. Overall, the survey went smoothly, the crew and equipment held together, and we had excellent weather for most of the time.
During our banding operations in August, we've seen the results of very good production (lots of ducklings in the traps) during the last several years of wet conditions. I'd expect, given the good to excellent wetland conditions across most of the Province, that ducks should have another good production year in 2014. Some drying along the Alberta border may impact local waterfowl populations, but overall it appears we should have another good year for duck production from the Saskatchewan prairies.
Small wetlands drained into larger ones dry out fields so farmers can seed more of their land. Photo by Phil Thorpe, USFWS
Ice on the Quill Lakes. A first for me, it was a very cold winter! Photo by Phil Thorpe, USFWS
Get more information about the 2014 BPOP Survey and other waterfowl surveys at Flyways.us
Find more breeding waterfowl and habitat updates on the DU Habitat Map